Written by Celeste Busby
Originally published at the Virginia Free Citizen. Reprinted by permission
Article 1 in a series on Common Core
Why would anyone be against standards that are “more rigorous; emphasize critical thinking; emphasize 21st-Century learning and STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) instruction; promote being able to compete globally and being college and career ready? Besides, it’s just state standards that Virginia didn’t even sign up for. RIGHT? Well, not exactly. Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are not “state standards.” They are nationalized, state-run standards so that every student in a given grade, in every state will be learning the same thing at the same time.
Promoters of the Standards, Achieve, Inc., Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and National Governors Organization (NGO) would like you to believe that the Standards had input from people in every state. The reality is that they were developed by a 24-member team, with David Coleman, from Student Achievement Partners (SAP), considered to be the chief architect of CCSS. (He is now head of College Board that develops the testing.) Every one of the members of the team had to sign a non-disclosure agreement, so the Standards were developed behind the scenes and “under the radar.” They were also developed without the knowledge of local parents and local school boards. National standards violate three federal laws: Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), General Education Provisions Act, Department of Education Organization Act. Plus, the 10th Amendment of the Constitution provides that:
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States, respectively, or to the people.
The U.S. Constitution does not give the federal government control over educating our children. But, the federal government has been intruding into local schools for years with promises of money. The problem is that with federal money, comes federal demands called mandates.
Virginia did opt out of Common Core, because its Standards of Learning (SOLs) are better than the Common Core State Standards, and it did receive a waiver for No Child Left Behind (NCLB). However, it has added some CC content to the SOLs, in both English and Math. In addition, Common Core curriculum and teaching materials are being sold in Virginia stores, and teachers have some leeway in what they use for teaching. Actually, Virginia re-wrote its own math SOLs in 2008, before the CCSS were written, but some of the Virginia math standards are very closely aligned with CCSS.
CCSS may be touted as “just standards,” but they are accompanied by curriculum examples and acceptable teaching methods. For example, in some schools teachers are allowed to lecture for only 15 minutes a day per subject and must spend the rest of the time guiding student-centered learning. Therefore, they likely will not be able to share much of the knowledge that they know about a subject. In fact, some teachers, in states where CCSS has been fully implemented, feel that they have been reduced to little more than “script readers.” Also, teachers may not change the standards, because they are copyrighted, and they can only add 15% more content to them.
E. D. Hirsch, former University Professor of Education and Humanities and Linden Kent Memorial Professor Emeritus of English, at the University of Virginia, and academic literary critic, discovered in the 1970s, that background knowledge was important to learning; that students’ reading comprehension requires more than decoding skills—students also need a cultural background of ”Core Knowledge” or “Cultural Literacy.” (see Core Knowledge Foundation) His discovery came from testing at two Virginia universities: “The community college students, most of them black, read with roughly the same fluency and comprehension as their UVA peers. But, to Hirsch’s surprise, the [community college] students ‘became baffled’ when they had to read about Lee’s surrender to Grant at Appomattox, [because they lacked basic understanding of the Civil War.] The passage was as incomprehensible to them as a Hegel essay on philosophy was to the U-Va students.” (Wik) His Core Knowledge discovery should not be confused with modern-day Common Core. Core Knowledge is exactly what Common Core would have teachers eliminate. For example, when reading the Gettysburg Address, students are to read it with no emotion and without any background knowledge of why it was written and spoken. They, then, need to evaluate its content. How can one make an honest evaluation without all the facts?
With regards to “more rigorous standards, emphasis on 21st-Century learning and STEM, competing globally and being college and career ready, this is little more than a sales pitch. In reality, CCSS are mediocre standards that will indeed close the education gap. However, dumbing down the top performing students is not the way that closing the gap should be done. Dr Sandra Stotsky, Professor Emeritus at the University of Arkansas, stated, “First, the CommonCore Standards require English teachers to emphasize skills, not literary or cultural knowledge. They do so because the Common core ‘college readiness’ reading standards are empty skills not academic standards. Second, the Common Core standards require English teachers to teach informational texts for over 50% of their reading instruction time. This is not what English teachers are trained to teach.” Dr. Stotsky was on the CCSS Validation Committee and refused to sign off on the Standards.(arizonasagainstcommoncore.com) It’s doubtful that reading instructional manuals, EPA announcements and Executive Orders will foster a desire to read.
Dr. James Milgram, Professor Emeritus, Department of Mathematics at Stanford University, testifying to the Indiana’s State Education Committee on the Math Standards, stated, “The Common Core Standards claim to be ‘benchmarked’ against the International standards, but this phrase is meaningless. They are actually two or more years behind international expectations by eighth grade, and only fall further behind as they talk about grades 8-12. Indeed, they don’t even fully cover the material in a solid geometry course, or in the second year algebra course.” (arizonansagainstcommoncore.com)
Last but not least, the college entrance exams have been changed and the new ones will be used beginning in 2016. Students will need to know CC’s sometimes biased and sometimes faulty information, plus its strange methods for doing math in order to pass these exams. Parents, please don’t think you can avoid the CC nonsense by transferring you child(ren) to private school or by home schooling your child(ren). Let me repeat, students will have to know CC’s sometimes biased, sometimes faulty information and its strange methods for doing math in order to pass the SATs/ACTs college entrance exams.
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